Business Matters – Issue 18

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Spring into action:

Setting goals and making them happen

The power of five:

Top tips larger businesses can pass on to start-ups

Plan, protect, grow:

Safeguarding your wealth as your business grows

Good for the planet, good for business:

How to grow your company sustainably

My business is my asset:

Case study

Spring into action: Setting goals and making them happen

It’s the season of new beginnings and growth – so what better time to set some new personal and business goals, with a detailed financial plan to match?

The ‘Where do you see yourself in 10 years?’ question is an interview staple, but business owners can also benefit from taking a moment to visualise their futures. Where will you be living? Will you be retired? What lifestyle do you what? Who do you want to spend it with?

We’re hardwired to live in the present, but we all need to see into our future if we’re going to get there smoothly. After all, if you’re not sure where you’re going, you may end up somewhere you don’t want to be.

Once you’ve got your goals clear in your mind, it’s time to set a positive path to achieving them.

Springing forward

Personal goals can be linked to life milestones, like starting a family, buying a house or retiring before we’re 60, or even based on our ambitions, such as starting a small business or leaving behind a legacy for our loved ones.

By taking time to understand who you are, what you hold dear and what you believe in, the goals will come naturally. But if they aren’t backed by a financial plan, a goal can remain simply a wish.

Spring is therefore a perfect opportunity for some financial housekeeping, and talking those personal goals over with an adviser is just the first step. Everyone’s financial journey and situation is different, which is why any financial plan should be highly personal and tailored to you.

At Wellesley, we spend time getting to know you, in order to get an in-depth understanding of your goals, motivations and lifestyle. In short, we find out what makes you tick, and what doesn’t.

Being flexible

But what happens if your goals change?

As John Lennon said: “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans”. We can anticipate the future, but we can’t predict it. A break-up, an unexpected job loss or medical bill may throw you a curveball. Our goals may change over time, and having a plan in place protects you through the difficult times as well as the bumper years.

The longer you take financial advice, the better your adviser can understand and support those changes with practical, empathic advice. It’s much easier to fine-tune a financial plan that already exists, rather than start from scratch.

What’s more, with the new tax year now up and running, early use of the fresh allowances and exemptions could reap rewards over the longer term, helping you achieve the future you want. An adviser can help you better understand tax reliefs and how they relate to your individual circumstances. It can also contextualise them within your overall retirement strategy, to help clarify how you can meet your goals and objectives. 

Personally and professionally speaking

Of course, entrepreneurs will also have their eye on their business goals. The starting point is to be clear about what’s important to you and your business – effectively, being clear about your ambitions and why you want to achieve them.

With the pandemic beginning to fade into the background, now’s the time to think about where you want your company to go next. Perhaps you’re thinking about growth? Later in this newsletter, we discuss the importance of knowing when to invest in growth and on which part of the business you should focus for maximum impact.

What’s more, it’s vital to build and maintain a healthy workplace culture that matches the strategy of the business and keeps your employees engaged, productive and focused on customer or client happiness.

Whatever’s next for your business, it’s important to think about tax and pensions. Tax may, understandably, not feel like the most important thing in the world to a business owner. But not paying attention to the tax detail can result in material financial harm over the years. With the dawn of the new tax year, there will be many business owners thinking about how to extract the profits they make this year in the most tax-efficient way.

Seizing new opportunities

Creating a detailed financial plan to match your goals will make you feel confident and in control, meaning you can spring forward into the future – and embrace it!

If you’d like to talk through your own personal goals, or review your existing ones, please get in touch.

The value of an investment with St. James’s Place will be linked directly to the performance of the funds selected and may fall as well as rise. You may get back less than the amount invested.

The levels and bases of taxation, and reliefs from taxation, can change at any time and are dependent on individual circumstances.

The power of five: Top tips larger businesses can pass on to start-ups

As an SME, it’s worth looking to larger corporations to see what makes them so successful, and proactively adopting some key techniques as a result.

The early stages of running a business require hard work – regardless of whether you’re launching your first start-up or are setting up your latest venture as a seasoned entrepreneur.

Luckily, there’s no shortage of information out there to help you through the first months and years. Yet a useful source of information that often goes unnoticed is the successful business techniques of large corporations. Read on to discover five key things that small businesses can adopt to enhance their own success.

  • Success in productivity

Higher levels of productivity are certainly one advantage large businesses have over small companies. It is, however, entirely possible to boost worker output – even as a small business – by investing in technology, hiring skilled staff or reducing waste.

“Smaller firms tend to be less productive than larger firms,” notes James Hayton, Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Warwick Business School. “In the early stages of life as a business, you need to increase productivity to be successful.”

That said, there’s certainly a balance to be struck. A growing business naturally requires more formal processes to make sure targets are established and achieved. However, increasing bureaucracy can stifle some of the start-up spirit that made your business a success in the first place.

James continues:

“You need the bureaucracy to execute – people have to know what their role is and what they must do to succeed – but you also need to find time to be entrepreneurial and explore new opportunities.”

  • Planning makes perfect

“Gut feel can get you only so far,” comments Simon Viney, owner of Guitar FX Direct – an online retailer of globally sourced boutique effects pedals. “Large businesses often manage their potential programmes and projects as a portfolio, carefully evaluating and ranking how each project will contribute to their overall goals.”

Simon is an accountant, with a background in management consultancy and programme management, and he’s worked with both FTSE 100 and SME businesses across many sectors. He goes on to say that small companies can readily adopt these principles. “This approach is easily transferrable to a small business and is helpful in balancing the ‘urgent’ with the ‘important’ tasks and setting them out in a clear plan,” he says.

A well-defined business plan can help you to focus on growth – therefore it’s worth updating yours, especially if you haven’t done so during the pandemic.

David Ciccarelli, CEO of Voices, an online marketplace for hiring voice-over actors, audio producers, musicians and translators, says:

“If you’ve been putting out fires for much of the past two years and focused mostly on survival, then it’s reasonable that you haven’t dedicated much time to refreshing your business plan.

“Having this document updated means you’ll be ready should you require more capital for your operations or if an expansion opportunity presents itself. Being proactive by updating the document means that you’ll be able to move quickly with the bank or other financiers.”

  • Lead by example

On starting up a company, it can feel like you’re doing everything single-handedly. Yet as the business grows, it’s critical to focus on how you lead the organisation by setting an example top-down – just as chief executives do at the most successful big companies.

James says:

“As you move beyond the start-up phase, that’s when you have to begin adopting more formalised business practices. The business leaders who have strong ability in influencing, motivating and directing behaviour, as well as the entrepreneurship skills that allowed them to identify and pursue opportunities, are the ones who are more successful in their financial activity.”

  • Invest in automation

Simon further observes:

“Larger companies tend to have a clear focus on technology investment and how it can add value to the business, the customer experience and help manage costs. Early investment in automation and integration before a growth spike pays dividends.

“Small companies can rely on manual, more people-intensive ways of working to save the cost of investing in IT. However, in a high-growth business, manual systems can quickly become costly, don’t scale well and are more error prone as the business expands.”

  • People first

Employing the right staff – and retaining them – can be key to the success of your business. Big companies have the luxury of entire HR departments that identify and attract the very best talent. Not only that, but they then monitor staff morale and keep lines of communication open with them.

Start-ups generally can’t afford this, but there are certain practices to be learned from big businesses – for example, communicating regularly with employees, giving them a financial stake in the company and being more diligent when selecting new employees.

Plan, protect, grow: Safeguarding your wealth as your business grows

Entrepreneurs are required to think differently about money – with the lines between personal and business wealth becoming blurred. Here’s how to look after yourself and your family while growing your business.

Over two years since the start of the first national lockdown, and things are finally moving past the ‘new normal’ into a state of ‘normal’ in the UK.

The biggest cause for optimism is the economy bouncing back from the worst effects of the coronavirus crisis –  at the end of 2021, GDP equalled pre-pandemic levels.1 And, as we move into spring, business owners have their sights firmly set on a brighter future.

Barring a new COVID-19 variant appearing, things undoubtedly appear more certain, so entrepreneur attention is turning from surviving to thriving. But before going full steam ahead towards growth, it’s important to review your current finances first – protecting yourself and your business.

Self-care

A good way to ensure your wealth is managed effectively is to start by looking after yourself. Talk to friends, family and advisers for a rounded view, then make your own decisions when you’re happy you have enough information.

If your business is still in its early stages – or if you haven’t yet thought about it – you should take counsel on the most tax-efficient way to pay yourself and how to develop the best tax plan. Doing so can save time, hassle and money. Forward thinking and strategic planning is essential so you can work out what you want in retirement, when you’re going to retire and what you want to leave to others (remember those goals from the first article?).

What’s more, it’s important to consider protection in terms of life insurance or income protection. It’s a difficult topic, but the COVID-19 pandemic has underlined how protection can provide added peace of mind.

Risky business

Unsurprisingly, it’s not uncommon for the lines between personal and business wealth to become a bit hazy. For the majority of business owners, personal wealth is closely linked with the success of the company – after all, it provides for your present and future, and your lifestyle is dependent on how your business is performing.

As the pandemic fades, there’s a lot to consider. Perhaps, with the future now holding a greater degree of certainty, you’ll re-evaluate your attitude to risk. This might mean an element of diversification within your business – maybe looking at new markets or new opportunities. Whichever direction you choose, it pays to have a plan and take advice, and creating a detailed financial plan that incorporates both business and personal assets.

That said, while the prospect of expansion is exciting, it’s important to make sure you don’t stretch yourself too thinly – personally or professionally. This links back to the previous section on self-care – expanding too fast can also have an impact on your own mental and physical health. Running a business can be stressful at the best of times, but that pressure becomes even greater if you’re trying to do too much, too soon. 53% of SME owners reportedly feel burned out by working too hard and 86% say they’ve sacrificed their own personal care for the sake of their business.2

Extracting value

There are a number of different ways to extract profits from your business to fund your personal life. SME owners who do this via dividends should always remember that the tax on these earnings is owed by the individual and must be paid at the end of each year. Don’t forget that the tax on dividends increased by 1.25% across the board on 6th April 2022. There remains a tax-free dividend allowance of up to £2,000.

Other changes include an increase of 1.25% on National Insurance, which does not apply to those paying themselves through dividends, but does apply to entrepreneurs who take salaries from their business or sole traders in their year-end tax return.

Pension planning

Another smart way to protect your wealth is paying into a pension. Not only is this probably the most tax-efficient way of extracting profit from your business, but it’s also an essential part of planning for the future.

Many entrepreneurs think that selling their business will provide enough funds for a lengthy retirement, but this is often not the case – so make sure you consider paying into a pension if you aren’t already.

Added peace of mind

As we have seen, personal wealth and company wealth quickly become intertwined, so keeping on top of your finances is vital. Ambitious entrepreneurs will always be looking for ways to expand their business, but it’s important to protect yourself and make sure you’re ready, before making any major decisions.

At Wellesley, we offer expert advice to help you develop a seamless and robust plan that spans your business and personal finances. Talk to us today!

The value of an investment with St. James’s Place will be directly linked to the performance of the funds you select and the value can therefore go down as well as up. You may get back less than you invested.

The levels and bases of taxation and reliefs from taxation can change at any time. The value of any tax relief depends on individual circumstances.

Sources:

1 GDP Monthly Estimate, UK: December 2021, Office for National Statistics, February 2022
2 The highs and lows of being self-employed, FreeAgent, May 2019 (Based on a survey sample size of around 700)

Good for the planet, good for business: How to grow your company sustainably

Running your own business can leave you exposed to certain risks, but having the right protection insurance in place can enable female entrepreneurs to meet their financial commitments – whatever happens. Here’s what you need to know!

We all dream of a world that’s cleaner, safer, and fairer: one that you want to live in, and one you want for future generations. But what does this mean for business owners, especially when there are more immediate matters to attend to? After all, when your company begins to grow, it can be difficult to stay on top of every aspect of the business.

There are many reasons to invest in your sustainability strategy. Not only is it good for the environment, but it can also improve your financial performance, as customers, suppliers and investors increasingly eye-up companies with ESG beliefs at their heart.

Small steps

ESG can often appear to be a complex matter, meaning it might not be top of an entrepreneur’s to-do list. But setting small, achievable goals can make all the difference – by doing so, companies can make substantial steps toward a more sustainable future.

It’s important to understand how sustainability can fit into your business model. Once you’ve done that, the action points will become clear. By breaking down your priorities into achievable steps and ensuring your targets are realistic, you can achieve them – even as your business grows. Alexandra Smith, Co-founder of FuturePlus, a software platform that enables businesses to manage their sustainability progress, is a champion of the ‘small steps, big changes’ approach. She says:

“It’s always easier to implement small, incremental changes as you grow than to retrofit large reforms when you have scaled. Companies that embed sustainability into their core business strategy tend to be more resilient and have a longer-term perspective, which makes them more attractive to their key stakeholders.”

Measure your progress

But how to ensure ESG remains a key part of your business model, as you grow? And what about expanding companies who haven’t paid much attention to environmental issues so far?

The answer is in the aforementioned goal-setting. By measuring your progress, you can evaluate your green principles and achievements (and failures) and make changes if required. Smith says:

“We all know it’s important to measure what matters. It allows us to set goals, track progress, celebrate successes and makes it simpler to communicate both internally and externally. What’s most important is to measure what you value and not just what’s easy.”

A good place to start is by understanding what’s important to your business, your stakeholders and for your future success. Smith continues:

“Measuring both where you are now, as a baseline, and where you want to be in the future provides you with a roadmap to success. It also gives you the time frame required to make the changes your business will benefit from.”

Actions speak louder

As your business grows, you might find yourself in positions where certain decisions may conflict with your sustainability beliefs, such as the increased need for travel or working with suppliers from around the world.

Consider offsetting these changes with carbon budgeting – setting an annual carbon allowance (for example, 50 tonnes) and subtract from it every time you do something such as fly to visit a client (for example, five tonnes).

Similarly, carbon pricing means every purchase made by the business has an internally agreed price for the carbon impact of that purchase added to it, thus creating a more transparent indication of the environmental impact of your decisions.

It’s also important to avoid greenwashing – defined as when companies overstate or lie about the environmental impact of their products. Be transparent with your customers and suppliers, and back up any claims about the positive environmental impact of your products with supporting evidence. For example, a product cannot claim to be ‘eco-friendly’ if parts of it are damaging to the environment.

It’s time to go ‘green’

If your business is growing rapidly without sustainability at its core, don’t worry – you’re not alone. While it can seem daunting, it’s never too late to begin your sustainability (and wider ESG) journey – and it pays to do so!

The years ahead will see increased sustainability regulation for businesses. From carbon taxes to fines for overstating green claims, greater scrutiny is a certainty, and those companies that aren’t ready will suffer. Being ahead of the curve won’t just be good for business, but will likely set you apart from competitors.

Smith concludes:

“Businesses that are taking action to improve their social and environmental impact will be more attractive to both customers and investors. Companies who take charge now will also be better adapted to the legislation we know is coming down the track.”

There’s always time to make the changes that will support a brighter future for you and the planet. If we all take those small steps now, the future we create will indeed be a better world.

My business is my asset: Case study

We understand that tangible examples are sometimes easier to understand, so we’ve put together a working example of a business – showing why it’s important to protect your wealth outside of your business.

*Please note this case study is based on a fictional company and owners, but accurately reflects how advice would be given. 

Case study: Widget & Co

John and Jean run Widget & Co, which is a small, successful manufacturing company. We were introduced by an existing client, and sat down with John and Jean to discuss their current situation/ planning.

They told us that they had minimal pension planning: “Our business is our asset and we have Entrepreneurial relief available upon exit.” In addition, they felt very comfortable as they had just secured a major contract with We Love Widgets, who agreed to purchase large amounts of widgets over the next three years.

Through conversation/education, we set up company contributions into pensions for each of them in order to remove money from their company into their personal names in a tax-effective manner.

However, in year two of the plan, John and Jean told us that they wanted to expand by changing direction and opening up a holiday-letting business with properties in Europe. This would necessitate them ceasing pension contributions: “But not to worry, as our business is our asset”.

We counselled against this for a variety of reasons – due to this not being their skill set, exchange rate fluctuations, void letting periods, cost of finance – however, John and Jean went ahead.

At the end of year three, We Love Widgets did not renew the contract with Widget & Co. This meant that John and Jean’s turnover/profit reduced, as it accounted for a large percentage of their business. Clearly, the reduction in profit also affected company value for sale/exit purposes.

Summary

While we all love the businesses that we’ve created and built up, it’s also true to say that not enough time is spent looking at exit scenarios. But, as John and Jean’s story shows, it pays to be prepared.

Many entrepreneurs don’t save into a pension because they think selling their business will be sufficient to fund their retirement – “My business is my asset”. While this can work, unforeseen circumstances can mean the company does not perform as expected, reducing your income later in life. There are also significant tax charges to consider when selling a business. Meanwhile, pensions offer excellent tax-planning opportunities and, most importantly, liquidity outside of the company, i.e. in your personal name.

Furthermore, Business Asset Disposal Relief (previously known as Entrepreneurs’ Relief) has reduced considerably. It’s fair to say that the future will, by default, bring tax changes, therefore it’s always prudent to take advantage of a known outcome where possible.

By planning ahead, you can help ensure your business is in good shape, has a demonstrable track record and has a clear plan in place for future growth, making your company attractive to potential buyers. The proceeds can help you move onto the next stage of your life, whatever that might be.